|Magriel's NYT Columns|
Joe Dwek ATHENS — From ancient times until the present, backgammon has been a national pastime in Greece. Indeed, the game as we know it today was handed down to the Greeks from the Egyptians and reached Western Europe through the Mediterranean.
Three thousand years ago, patrician Greeks amused themselves playing backgammon. Plato, Sophocles, and Homer referred to it in their writings. Like contemporary players, the ancient Greeks reacted emotionally to favorable and unfavorable rolls of the dice: sixes were known as “Aphrodite,” ones were known as “dog.”
Today, backgammon in Greece is a sport enjoyed by the masses and the elite alike. “Tavoli,” as backgammon is called here, can be found in almost every cafe and bar. In fact, it is hard to find a Greek who doesn’t play, because almost everyone here learns the game as a child.
This week the Athenians focused their attentions on a match being played by foreigners. The Mount Parnes Casino was the site of a three-day, 63-point consulting match between Joe Dwek, aided by Kiumars Motakhasses, representing Europe, and myself, with Roger Low, for the United States.
||Black to play 6-1.|
Black correctly played 8/7, 8/2, “clearing” his 8-point. Not only does this avoid the problem of safely clearing the 8-point later, but more importantly, it also greatly aids Black in another objective — making the 4-point. With the correct play, Black now has for active builders (spare men). If Black had incorrectly played 9/2, the resulting position would have been much less flexible and therefore more accident-prone.
The European team proceeded to bear off safely, winning two points in the match. The United States eventually won the closely contested event, 63 to 61.
Tom Keith 2013
White owns 2-cube
Black rolls 6-1
1296 games with VR
Checker play: 2-ply
Cube play: 3-ply Red